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Sonoma County Gazette
Mustard Madness by Ron Skaar

Mustard Madness

Jul 30, 2017
by Ron Skaar


Mustard seeds have been unearthed in prehistoric sites through out Europe and Asia. Recent archaeology excavation in the Indus Valley found that mustard seeds were cultivated before 1800 B.C. Mustard was the one and only pungent spice available in ancient times.

The Romans were the first to experiment with mustard as a condiment. Columella, a 1st century Roman chef, soaked the mustard seeds before crushing them with pine nuts, almonds and vinegar. He found “this mustard not only suitable as a sauce but also pleasing to the eye; for if it is carefully made, it is of exquisite brilliance.”

The Romans introduced mustard seeds to a division of their empire, Gaul. By the 10th century monks in Paris capitalized on the mustard making inspired by the Romans. They began their own production and by 1292 mustard is listed on the Royal Register of Paris.

Dijon had become the center of mustard making by the 14th century. There are written accounts of guests consuming 70 imperial gallons of mustard cream, in a single setting, at a gala held by the duke of Burgundy in 1336!

The first record of mustard as a condiment in England was written by King Richard II’s master cook. Course ground seeds were mixed with flour, slightly moistened, then rolled into balls and dried. They were combined with wine or vinegar to make a paste as needed. These balls were spoken of in William Shakespeare’s play,King Henry the Fourth, part II.

By the seventeenth century Dijon had become the mustard capital of the world. There, in 1777, Maurice Grey shared his unique recipe containing white wine with financial backer Auguste Poupon. The introduction of an automatic mustard-making machine helped their product to become world famous.

Powdered mustard, an English specialty, is made from ground black and white mustard seeds mixed with flour. This was perfected in the nineteenth century by Jeremiah Coleman. Use of mustard as a hot dog condiment was first seen in the United States at the St. Louis Worlds Fair of 1904. There, the bright yellow sauce was introduced by the R.T. French company.

Most American mustards are made with the mild yellow seeds with turmeric adding the bright yellow color. Black mustard seeds are the most potent while brown seeds are very similar although slightly paler and less pungent in flavor. The brown seeds have superseded the black ones because they are easier to harvest mechanically.

Mustard is one of the most popular and wildly used spices in the world. Mustard flavored in different ways can enhance a wide variety of foods. Mustards are unique in providing a volatile pungency and help stabilize sauce emulsions like mayonnaise and vinaigrette. When added to Hollandaise sauce, for example, mustard can inhibit curdling.

Commonly paired with meats and cheeses, added to sandwiches, salads, hamburgers, hot dogs and corn dogs, mustard is also used for dressings, glazes, sauces, soups and marinades. My affinity for Dijon mustard is so robust thatDorothy Bailey, my catering assistant at the Luther Burbank Center, once insisted I used it in almost every recipe. She wasn’t far off.

Today, most Dijon mustard is made with seeds from Canada. August 5th is the United States national day to celebrate mustard.The recipe included makes use of a lot of the fresh produce available now from your garden or the nearest farm stand. And, of course, the creamy, full flavored and tangy taste of Dijon.

Photo by Jon Russo

Summer Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette


1 large egg yolk

2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons plus 1teaspoon balsamic vinegar 1 small garlic clove, minced

1 small shallot, minced 3/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and pepper to taste Salad

12 breakfast radishes

8 oz. small tomatoes, halved

4 oz. baby green beans, blanched for 3 minutes 3 oz. baby carrots, halved

8 thin asparagus spears, blanched for 3 minutes 2 cups baby arugula

2 cups spring mix

1. In a food processor combine the first 5 ingredients with 2 tablespoons water. With machine running, drizzle in oils and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

2. In a bowl, toss all ingredients, season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herbs, such as basil and serve with more dressing on side. Can also add baby zucchini, snap peas, snow peas or baby cooked beats. Reserve the remaining dressing for another salad. Serves 4


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